Association for Computing Machinery
Timely Topics for IT Professionals

ACM TechNews (HTML) Read the TechNews Online at: http://technews.acm.org
ACM TechNews
February 21, 2007

MemberNet
The ACM Professional Development Centre
Unsubscribe

Welcome to the February 21, 2007 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.


HEADLINES AT A GLANCE:

 

Top Computer Award Breaks Gender Barrier After 40 Years
Los Angeles Times (02/21/07) Pham, Alex

Retired IBM scientist Frances E. Allen, a pioneer in the field of optimizing compilers whose work helped crack Cold War-era code and predict the weather, has been named the first woman to receive ACM's A.M. Turing Award--the highest honor in computer science. ACM has granted its Turing Award for technical merit to no more than a few people each year since 1966. Previous winners include Vinton Cerf and Robert Kahn, who helped create the underpinnings of the Internet; Marvin Minsky, an AI guru; and Douglas Engelbart, inventor of the computer mouse. Allen, who receives the award, which carries a $100,000 prize from Intel, at ACM's annual banquet in San Diego on June 9, was hired by IBM in 1957 to teach a new programming language called Fortran to IBM scientists, most of whom were not trusting the language to transfer their intentions to the machines. Thus began Allen's life-long work improving compilers to better translate human instructions for computers. Allen's achievement comes long after women toppled barriers in other scientific professions. "There's an image about our profession that doesn't appeal to women, which is a shame because women in our field are just fabulous," said John White, ACM's CEO. "They're great researchers. They're great leaders. There just aren't enough of them. This has been an issue for many years." Allen has reported she plans to use the award money to inspire young women to take up an interest in computing. "Maybe this is the time and period when society and in my case, my profession, is ready for a change," she told the Journal News (NY).
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Campaign Strengthens for a Voting Paper Trail
Washington Post (02/19/07) P. A17; Goldfarb, Zachary A.

Independent audit measures for e-voting are gaining momentum in Congress. The Democrats that now control Congress appear to be dedicated to proposed e-voting bills that would require printouts and tests of paper tallies against electronic results. The bill introduced in the House has almost 200 co-sponsors. "We are closer now to paper-trail legislation than we have ever been before," says Electionline.org's Doug Chapin. Currently, 27 states require e-voting machines to produce paper trails. However, requiring a paper trail could bring about new problems "in terms of both creating post-election litigation and creating administrative problems in counting these paper strips," says Ohio State University's election-law program director Daniel Tokaji. "We know they can be compromised, torn, crumpled," and experience various printing problems, he adds. In addition to changes in election day practices, the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) will increase scrutiny of the process for testing voting machines prior to elections: Evaluation of testing labs will now include the NIST. "It's the first time the federal government has ever been involved in testing voting equipment and, with NIST recommending their accreditation, that puts a more stringent position on the labs to meet all of the qualifications," said EAC chair Donetta Davidson.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Government Research to Track Online Networking
The Daily Targum (02/21/07) Dela Cruz, Christopher; Carr, Megan

The Rutgers Center for Discrete Mathematics and Theoretical Computer Science will head a group of universities and private companies that will take part in a Department of Homeland Security project intended to create computing methods for monitoring social networks and news stories for suspicious opinions. With the goal of being able to sift through massive amounts of data, the project is being touted by some as having tremendous value outside the realm of homeland security, while others fear the ability it could give the government to monitor innocent citizens. DHS has announced that it seeks a way to "find a suspicious group based on its pre-event communication activity before they act," but DHS University Affiliate Center at Rutgers researcher Paul Kantor explains that some research will focus on privacy protection in data analysis that can "both help us protect our citizens' privacy and also help us develop techniques that will protect the privacy of our data from our adversaries." The system's ability to process information is being tested using newspaper articles, but "non-textual mediums such as speech, video, and geo-spatial data" could also be included in the project, says DHS representative Christopher Kelly. The technology could one day summarize books, decipher cultural trends on blogs, or determine the author of a document. "These techniques will never find terrorists," BT Counterpane CTO Bruce Schneier says. "Most of the value of the research lies outside terrorism." Schneier says the use of specific profiles will limit the amount of false alarms generated. The ACLU argues that law enforcement should follow known leads rather than looking through the general population trying to find terrorists.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Robo Bird-Watcher
Technology Review (02/20/07) Ross, Rachel

In an effort to capture footage of an elusive species, researchers have developed a system that can automatically identify birds in flight and record their movements. After questionable 2004 video footage reopened the search for the ivory-billed woodpecker, which had been thought to be extinct, researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, and Texas A&M University began creating the Automated Collaborative Observatory for Natural Environments (ACONE), a two-camera platform that now keeps watch over a 300-feet by 900-feet area above the Cache River Refuge in eastern Arkansas. Bird watchers had used motion sensors on cameras before, but this technology was not sensitive enough to notice birds. "Even if [motion sensor-equipped cameras] see something, getting the camera focused [quickly] is very tricky," explains Berkeley engineering professor Ken Goldberg. Each one of ACONE's cameras captures 11 frames per second, which are stored in a buffer. The computer's software instantly analyzes each frame for matches with the speed and size of the ivory-billed woodpecker. If a bird is detected, the seven previous frames and the next seven frames are permanently recorded at a resolution of 1,600 by 1,200 pixels. Frames that are judged to be of no use are discarded immediately. Falling leaves and fast-moving clouds have caused false positives, but these are being investigated for ways to improve detection abilities. ACONE has been surprisingly stable, running around the clock for four months. Although some footage is too blurry for the species to be identified, other footage has allowed the identification of several species. The final goal for such technology is the ability to identify any species of bird it sees.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


SC07 to Feature 'Disruptive Technologies' Activity
HPC Wire (02/19/07)

SC07 will give the computing industry an opportunity to focus on technologies that will emerge as key high-performance computing technologies in the next five to 15 years. The "Disruptive Technologies" event will offer panel sessions and exhibits on technologies that have the potential to have a major impact on high-end computing by SC2020. Attendees will be able to see prototypes of such technologies in the exhibit area, and hear speakers discuss developments for processors, memory, interconnects, and storage during the panels. Jeffrey Vetter of Oak Ridge National Lab and Georgia Tech University is the chair for Disruptive Technologies at SC07. ACM and IEEE Computer Society are the sponsors of SC07, which is scheduled for Nov. 10-16, 2007, at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center in Reno, Nev. The supercomputing conference focuses on the impact of high-performance computing, networking, storage, and analysis on research, education, and commerce. For more information on SC07 go to http://sc07.supercomputing.org/.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Computer Science Trouble Lies in Education, Not Jobs, Stanford Professor Says
Stanford University (02/09/07) Jia, Annie

Stanford University computer science professor Eric Roberts, co-chair of ACM education board, says a lack of qualified workers, not a lack of available jobs, is to blame for the nation's declining computer science industry. Roberts says there are currently more job than there were at the peak of the dot-com boom, and that misconceptions stating otherwise must be down away with. Although the number of jobs was rising, enrollment rates in computer science courses in 2005 had fallen to below half of what they were in 2000. As computing technology becomes more important to other fields, the lack of qualified potential employees will have a larger impact. "The real problem is that fear of offshoring is keeping people out of the field," Roberts says. "If you believe that there will be no computer jobs in the U.S., that will become true. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy." Another major problem is that computer science graduates have greater incentive to go into lucrative jobs in the industry, rather than pursue teaching jobs, which typically pay less. "It makes it really hard to build more computer scientists if you can't hire teachers," Roberts says. Experts agree that a national, government supported effort is needed to encourage students to go into computing. "We have huge resources in terms of our intellectual capital. Why aren't we exploiting them more?" Roberts asks. "We were the unquestioned leader in computing. We can't just give that up because nobody is interested."
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Carnegie Mellon Establishes Katayanagi Prizes in Computer Science in Collaboration with Tokyo University of Technology
Carnegie Mellon News (02/14/07)

Carnegie Mellon University and Tokyo University of Technology have announced the recipients of the inaugural Katayanagi Prize for Research Excellence and the Katayanagi Emerging Leadership Prize. The Research Excellence Prize, denoting an established researcher with a record of extraordinary achievement, will be awarded to University of California, Berkeley computer science department chair and former ACM President David A. Patterson for his work across all fields of computer system design, including processors, storage and memory systems, and system management. The fruit of Patterson's work, such as RISC microprocessors and RAID file systems, have created multibillion-dollar industries. The Emerging Leadership Prize, denoting an emerging researcher who has shown the ability to lead, will be awarded to TUT computer and information science professor Takeo Igarishi for his innovative methods of creating intricate computer graphics using simple graphical interfaces. This work is expected to lead the way toward graphic design that is increasingly intuitive and less labor intensive. The selection process for both awards involves nominations and voting by committee members from both universities. The senior award carries an honorarium of $20,000, and the junior award carries one of $10,000. Both are made possible by a gift from Koh Katayanagi, the founder of TUT and several other Japanese technical institutions. Katayanagi says "the establishment of the Katayanagi Prizes in cooperation with Carnegie Mellon was indeed a manifestation of my sincere desire to contribute to further advancement of computer science and technology."
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Europe's Plan to Track Phone and Net Use
New York Times (02/20/07) P. C4; Shannon, Victoria

Germany and the Netherlands are preparing legislation that would require companies to keep data concerning customer's Internet and phone use in a manner that would go beyond the requirements of the European Union Data Retention Directive, which must be put into law by all member countries by 2009. Germany would make it illegal to open email accounts using false information, and the Netherlands would mandate that phone companies save information on the exact location of a customer during a phone conversation. Current EU law requires that Internet service providers, who keep customer information for months for billing purposes, disclose this information in the case of valid legal investigations. The proposed German email law states that email aliases are only legal if they are traceable to the account holder. "This is an incredibly bad thing in terms of privacy, since people have grown up with the idea that you ought to be able to have an anonymous email account," says European privacy counsel for Google Peter Fleischer. He also points out that the law would have to implement some sort of identity verification system. However, European law may not apply to U.S.-based email providers, making it very easy for Europeans to use a fictitious account. When the EU directive was announced, Internet and telecom groups debated the length of time information must be stored and how companies would be compensated for the costs of this retrieval and storage, so the directive ended up leaving these decisions to individual countries.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Paranoid Androids 'in 10 Years'
Sunday Telegraph (London) (02/18/07) Gray, Richard

Scientists at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Francisco said that within 10 years consumers will be able to own robots capable of doing domestic chores, providing companionship, and having feelings. Several projects are already underway to develop robots with basic emotions, which would be used to motivate the machines. If a robot got frustrated at the difficultly of a task, it could try different strategies; if a robot did a task poorly, it could feel guilty or sad and try to improve its work next time; or if a robot got bored, it could look for more tasks. Emotion "allows the robot to make better decisions, learn more effectively, and interact more appropriately," explains MIT roboticist Cynthia Breazeal. She has been able to make robots respond to electronic signals as emotions, causing a physical reaction such as a change in voice, posture, and facial expression. "If you have something with no emotion then it has no goals and no reason to get up in the morning," says Glasgow Caledonian University computer scientist David Moffat. "Emotion becomes the reward or punishment that will drive the robot to achieve its goals." Moffat has programmed "fear" into robots, to make them run and hide from robot "predators." Hunger has also been replicated in robots, so they know when to recharge their own batteries.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Handheld 'Smart' Museum Guide Unveiled at University of Haifa
University of Haifa (02/16/07)

Visitors of the Hecht Museum at the University of Haifa can now use a "smart" museum guide to tour its exhibits. Introduced this week, the interactive guide makes use of artificial intelligence so it can learn about its user, and then tailor the visit and the information it provides to the personal preferences and interests of the visitor. The handheld computer asks users questions as they approach exhibits, and can play video clips to make exhibits more exciting and provide explanatory presentations. Users are also able to use the interactive guide to send messages to a companion in another part of the museum, telling them how wonderful an exhibit is and that they should come see it. The interactive guide is the work of researchers from the Caesarea Rothschild Institute at the university and the ITC-irst of Trento, Italy. "Our vision is that in another few years people will be able to come to any site that has installed this program with their own personal handheld computers, download the relevant information about the place, and begin a tour," says professor Martin Golumbic, director of the Caesarea Rothschild Institute.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Deaf to Sign Via Video Handsets
BBC News (02/16/07)

Researchers at the University of Washington have developed a video compression system that will allow deaf people to use mobile devices to send live video of them using sign language to chat with other people. Current mobile networks will not allow them to do so because of bandwidth demands, according to lead researcher and computer scientist Richard Ladner. "To do all this calculation and video compression runs down your battery pretty fast," he says. The compression software that Ladner developed, along with professors Eve Riskin and Sheila Hemami, cuts down on the amount of data forwarded to video compression tools by only sending data about hand, arm, and face movements. The video compression system is also designed to offer better quality video of the face of the signer. The researchers say networks that have only 10 Kbps to 20 Kbps of bandwidth available will be able to take advantage of the video compression system. They are already gauging the interest of mobile firms in offering the technology in their phones.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Vanderbilt Engineer Wins NSF Award for Innovative Internet System
Vanderbilt News Service (02/15/07)

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has honored Vanderbilt University researcher Yi Cui with a CAREER Award that will sponsor five years of research into peer-to-peer networking. Cui, an assistant professor of computer science and computer engineering, will develop an automated system that will allow for peer-to-peer multimedia streaming over the Internet. He plans to centralize multimedia streaming servers to route video and audio signals using the computers of subscribers. YouTube and other multimedia Internet streaming services use dedicated computer servers to establish centralized control, and moving the data through Internet connections to individual computers often produces bottlenecks and slower or interrupted delivery. Cui hopes to solve these issues with his approach, which he also believes will make it cost effective for entrepreneurs to launch multimedia streaming services, in terms of computer server and bandwidth costs. "The NSF sponsorship will enable us to assess networked computers' ability to transmit multimedia data, based on the customary use of the computer, the inferred bandwidth available to the computers, and a variety of customer usage patterns," says Cui.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


World Leading Human Behaviour Experts Awarded Security Study Contract
Innovations Report (02/16/07) White, Ben

The human factor in securing computer systems will be the focus of a new study funded by the U.K. government's Cyber Security Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN). M. Angela Sasse, professor of Human-Centered Technology at UCL, will head the diverse team of researchers that will include specialists in computing as well as psychology, criminology, management, and marketing. Computer security pioneer Fred Piper, security experts from industry and academia, software engineering researchers, and human behavior specialists will all be involved in the project. In the spring, the team will present a white paper with best practices and recommendations for protecting PCs and U.K. critical infrastructure from cyber attacks and organized e-crime. "Vulnerabilities introduced by human behavior are often at the heart of security problems and I expect this team to make a valuable and practical contribution to the community's understanding of this important issue," says Dr. Sadie Creese, director of the Cyber Security KTN. "The IT security community has given only patchy consideration to the human factor in security and I welcome the opportunity to help improve our collective understanding of this critical area and translate it into practical advice for companies and individual users."
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Bulging Bumpers Could Speed Journey to Computerised Carriageways
University of Manchester (02/19/07)

A paper from researchers from the University of Manchester School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering that takes aim at the potential safety concerns associated with automated vehicles won Best Scientific Paper at the recent Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) World Congress and Exhibition. Their work has to deal with the possibility of a communication failure in the "grouping" of cars, forming a pack of over 20 cars to reduce congestion and improve aerodynamics. If such a failure occurred, the cars would be able to continue on by detecting the location of the car in front of them using a "bridging damper," an extendable bumper; no information would be needed from any other cars in the group. The damper would be able to adjust for varying road conditions. Automated highway systems and co-operative vehicle systems have been under development for several decades, but legal and liability issues in the event of a systems breakdown have slowed development, according to the University of Manchester paper. "With so much intelligence going into the creation of co-operative vehicle highway systems, the consequences of a system failure are potentially quite severe--although the overall benefits, including the potential for greater safety, are considerable," said Manchester's Dr. Alasdair Renfrew. Although the damper device has mostly been tested using computer simulations, an actual pneumatic device has been built and tested. Extensive further research is needed, but the University of Manchester work is expected to spur investigation into other aspects of "contact convoy" systems.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


New Analog Circuits Could Impact Consumer Electronics
MIT News (02/15/07) Thomson, Elizabeth A.

MIT engineers have developed new analog circuits for consumer electronics devices that could overcome the current limitations of today's analog circuits. "Most real-world signals are analog signals, so analog circuits are an essential part of most electronic systems," says lead researcher and MIT Microsystems Technology Laboratories and Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science professor Hae-Seung Lee. Advanced analog circuits could improve the ability of electronic devices and the real world to communicate with each other by processing signals and converting them to digital, or converting digital signals to analog. Innovation in the design of analog circuits must come from humans rather than software because of their variability, and side effects of recent advancements in manufacturing technologies have led to operational amplifier-based analog circuits that cause decreased gain and analog signal range in devices. In order to make up for these deficiencies, the circuits must consume more power. The circuits developed by Lee's team, known as comparator-based switched capacitor (CBSC) circuits, do not use operational amplifiers yet retain all of the benefits of operational amplifier-based circuits and consume less energy. "The new work coming out of MIT offers the intriguing possibility of eliminating operational amplifiers by proposing an architecture that relies on circuit blocks that are much more readily implemented on supply voltages of 1 volt or less," said International Solid State Circuit Conference data converter subcommittee chair Dave Robertson. Since it would be easier to use comparators than operational amplifiers in new technologies, CBSC could allow high-performance analog circuits to be implemented.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Taming Power Beast Is Lab's Goal
EE Times (02/12/07)No. 1462, P. 4; Merritt, Rick

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researchers are engaged in the two-year Energy Efficient Digital Networks effort, whose goal is to lower the United States' approximately 200 terawatt-hours of annual energy consumption by electronic devices. Part of the initiative is the suggestion of new power standards and practices for large network switches, wireless access points, set-top boxes, home control systems, and other consumer equipment, and a low-power standard for Ethernet has already been launched. A new proxy feature could save up to 10 percent of the power consumed by an average California household, according to researchers. Once a proposal is ready, the researchers may enlist the Distributed Management Task Force or the Internet Engineering Task Force to handle standardization. The lab is currently choosing several network systems for which it will recommend test procedures and energy consumption standards, and probable early targets include large network switches for businesses and Wi-Fi access points and household cable/DSL gateways. It is also the lab's goal to transition consumer electronics systems and standards to a three-state (on, sleep, and off) model from a two-state (on/off) model. The lab helped launch the Energy-Efficient Ethernet study group under IEEE 802.3, and early talks have emphasized finding a common means for enabling the migration of 10 GB to gigabit to 100 MB Ethernet speeds while preserving the connection. Supporters reckon that the United States could save $450 million in annual energy costs with Energy-Efficient Ethernet.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


U.S. Cybersecurity Czar Has His Marching Orders
CNet (02/20/07) Evers, Joris

In his capacity as U.S. cybersecurity czar, Greg Garcia plans to formulate strategies for promoting the adoption of security technologies through tax breaks and other incentives, as well as encourage cooperation between the public and private sectors by establishing links between federal security watchdogs and their private industry equivalents. He says in an interview that he is aiming for "a more concerted effort, a series of hearings that really look at some of the different critical infrastructure sectors ... to articulate how it is that investing in security is going to accrue more benefits back to the company." Garcia explains that his title and role as DHS assistant secretary has been a boon by virtue of the authority vested in it, which is key to moving things forward. He notes that he has confidence that his plan will be successfully implemented because "I've got my leadership team in place, and so I'm feeling much more complete as an organization that we have the intellectual firepower [and] we have people with years of government experience who understand how to get things done." Garcia says his goal is to promote proactive rather than reactive consideration of customer-driven security through a raising of awareness; he suggests that Congress could modify laws to fuel investment. The cybersecurity czar foresees the funneling of all global communications over a single pipeline based on Internet Protocol, and asserts that efforts should be made to determine such a system's weaknesses and embed security while the architecture is in development. The presence of a global supply chain also calls for built-in security procedures, Garcia says.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


Computer Science: Where Are the Exemplars?
Science (02/16/07) Vol. 315, No. 5814, P. 949; Mezard, Marc

A broad swath of complicated problems could be tackled through a rapid method for locating representative examples in complex data sets developed by B.J. Frey and D. Dueck. The algorithm spots special data points known as exemplars, and links every data point to the best representative exemplar. The first step in such methods is the assembly of a similarity matrix, a table of numbers that sets up the relationship of each data point to every other data point; the optimal exemplar set represents the maximization of the sum of each point to its exemplar. The goal of Frey and Dueck's affinity propagation algorithm is to maximize the net similarity. The extraction of representative faces from a gallery of images is a challenge that affinity propagation is highly suited for. Input consists of a list of numerical similarities between pairs of data points, arranged in a scheme where each face or data point shares messages with all other faces and their "guardian angels," which tell when someone else has selected a particular face as an exemplar. Global consensus on the optimal set of exemplars is achieved after a few versions of message passing. Such message-passing techniques have proven their efficiency in difficult problems that include learning in neural networks, error correction, and ascertaining the satisfiability of logical formulas.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


When Sociable Computing Meets Autism
New Scientist (02/17/07) Vol. 193, No. 2591, P. 26; Biever, Celeste

Researchers at the MIT Media Lab are bringing together the study of autism with the study of sociable computing in hopes of gaining insights into both fields. "Autism is of great interest to me," says Media Lab sociable computing researcher Rosalind Picard. "It turns out we are trying to solve a lot of the same problems that people who study autism are trying to solve." She describes machines as autistic because of their inability to empathize, understand facial expressions, and generalize between different situations. She advocates studying the use of "mind reading" devices on people with autistic spectrum disorders (ASD). One such device could give people with ASD a "print-out" of other people's emotions, since those with ASD often seek social contact but cannot attain it. In the case of helping people with ASD, robots would not replace humans, rather they could do what humans are unable to, explains Sherry Turkle, who studies relationships that people form with robots. Picard suggests that this research would go both ways: Studying the way people with autism interact with the world can inform researchers trying to create increasingly sociable robots. The more systematic approach toward social interaction taken by people with ASD could be easier to recreate in a computer program than that of a "neurotypical person." The researchers make it clear that the comparison between robots and those with ASD is only a metaphor used to better understand the condition and sociable robots, rather than an equating of people to machines. They also do not see ASD as something which needs to be "cured," rather as an alternative, potentially advantageous, mental state.
Click Here to View Full Article
to the top


To submit feedback about ACM TechNews, contact: technews@hq.acm.org

To unsubscribe from the ACM TechNews Early Alert Service: Please send a separate email to listserv@listserv.acm.org with the line

signoff technews

in the body of your message.

Please note that replying directly to this message does not automatically unsubscribe you from the TechNews list.

ACM may have a different email address on file for you, so if you're unable to "unsubscribe" yourself, please direct your request to: technews-request@ acm.org

We will remove your name from the TechNews list on your behalf.

For help with technical problems, including problems with leaving the list, please write to: technews-request@acm.org

to the top

News Abstracts © 2007 Information, Inc.


© 2007 ACM, Inc. All rights reserved. ACM Privacy Policy.

About ACM | Contact us | Boards & Committees | Press Room | Membership | Privacy Policy | Code of Ethics | System Availability | Copyright © 2014, ACM, Inc.